Fiorentina 0-1 Grasshopper: Viola through to Europe League group stage despite defeat
Grasshopper ran out 1-0 winners over Fiorentina at the Stadio Artemio Franchi on Thursday night, but the Viola are through to the Europa League group stage via away goals after the tie ended 2-2 on aggregate.
A goal from Nassim Ben Khalifa was enough for the Swiss side to take home bragging rights on the night, but not enough to keep them in Europe.
Grasshoppers came out ready to play and saw Shkelzen Gashi’s header travel over the bar, sending a warning to the Viola that the Swiss would be ready for a fight.
The Gigliati answered back in the 27th minute when Joaquin burst down the right side before finding Juan Cuadrado with a low pass, but the Colombian sent his close range effort over the bar.
The Spaniard was once again the dangerman in the 36th minute when he controlled a David Pizarro pass, but he was unable to send his effort on goal from just outside the six yard box.
The Swiss side came close to taking the lead in the 37th minute. Neto punched a corner back into the box and Vero Salatic was able to header the ball back at goal, but the Viola goalkeeper got his fingertips onto the ball and pushed it over the bar and out of harm’s way.
The Viola then thought they had taken the lead in the 40th minute when Mario Gomez headed the ball into the back of the net from a Borja Valero free kick, but it was ruled off as the German was in an offside position.
Not even a minute later Grasshoppers took the lead when Neto was unable to clear a Pizarro backpass, and his clearance was sent straight to Ben Khalifa who easily sent his shot into the back of the net to give the away side the 1-0 lead.
The Swiss came out looking to take the lead in the tie at the start of the second half but Neto was able to smother Anatole Ngamukol’s effort in the 50th minute.
The Viola responded in the 58th minute when Valero unleashed an effort from outside the box, but Roman Bürki controlled the Spaniards effort.
The home side looked on edge as the Swiss side continued to look for the go-ahead goal, though they came close to wrapping up the tie in the 81st minute, but Gomez was only able to send his effort wide of goal.
Izet Hajrovic kept the home supporters on edge in the 83rd minute when his effort skimmed the base of the post as Grasshopper continued to push forward.
The remainder of the half played out with a visibly tired Fiorentina holding onto their aggregate advantage and it proved enough as the referee blew an end to the tie and confirmed the Viola’s spot in this year’s Europe League competition.
Follow Adriano Boin on Twitter: @Boin44